Details of plans to ease COVID-19 travel rules coming within days: minister

Click to play video: 'What premiers are looking for in Canada’s border reopening plan'
What premiers are looking for in Canada’s border reopening plan
WATCH: The idea of easing border restrictions dominated the agenda at the First Ministers' Meeting. As David Akin explains, Canada's premiers aren't the only ones pressuring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to loosen the measures, as more Canadians get immunized against COVID-19 – Jun 17, 2021

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says the government’s plans for a phased reopening of the border to international travel following COVID-19 restrictions will be shared “in the coming days.”

In the meantime, he said talks are happening now between the government and the airports and airlines to make sure they can be ready for when those travel rules begin to relax.

“In the coming days, we’re going to be announcing details about the phasing of reopening or adjusting travel measures,” Alghabra told journalists on Wednesday when pressed on plans to reopen the border.

“We’ve been in contact with airports, with airline companies and other companies who support the aviation sector about our plan. Certainly, we need to give them time to prepare for reopening, and we feel confident that our partnership with them and their dedicated and committed workers and teams will be ready to work with us on the phasing of reopening travel.”

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READ MORE: COVID-19 travel rules could be relaxed for ‘fully vaccinated’ Canadians, Trudeau says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said any easing of the rules will focus on “fully vaccinated” Canadians.

He said last week the consideration of easing border rules comes as vaccination rates continue to soar among Canadians, and case counts of those infected with the virus keep dropping.

His comments also came amid continued questions over whether quarantine hotels for incoming travellers are working as intended and at what point the growing number of partially and fully vaccinated Canadians might be able to begin travelling and living more normally.

“I understand how eager people are to put the pandemic behind us and be able to travel once again. … We see the number of cases dropping, we see the situation improving tremendously,”  Trudeau said.

“We’ll have more announcements to make on measures that may be eased for those who’ve had both doses in the weeks to come. … Easing of restrictions will be focused on Canadians who are fully vaccinated.”

Click to play video: 'When will Canada provide guidelines for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19?'
When will Canada provide guidelines for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19?

Countries around the world shut down their borders last year as the novel coronavirus spread.

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The Canadian government barred non-essential foreign nationals and warned Canadians against non-essential travel outside the country in March 2020. Officials later adjusted the rules to require negative COVID-19 PCR tests prior to and after arrival, a period of mandatory quarantine and fines for ignoring it, and limits on which airports could accept incoming international arrivals.

In February 2021, the government also announced travellers arriving in the country would have to quarantine at their own expense in a government-authorized hotel. Only after receiving a negative COVID-19 test could they continue their total 14-day quarantine at home.

The move was billed as an attempt to stem the risk of infected travellers amid months of reports of Canadians returning to the country and ignoring quarantine rules at their residences. It also came as increasing cases of variants of concern fuelled the rise of a third wave in many regions.

Canadians who can afford to pay a fine — initially $3,000, now $5,000 — have been able to ignore the quarantine hotel requirement. Data from the Public Health Agency of Canada suggests less than one per cent of those fined for refusing the hotel quarantine tested positive for COVID-19.

More to come.


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